Canada’s New Land Claim Policy Has No Effect On Dehcho Process

FORT SIMPSON, NT – June 13 – The Grand Chief of the Dehcho First Nations has cautious praise for the announcement yesterday by the Conservative government of legislation – yet to be drafted — to speed up Specific land claims and ease tensions in southern Canada between First Nations and the government.

But Herb Norwegian was quick to distinguish between the Dehcho Process, which falls under Canada’s “Comprehensive Claims” process, and the new “Specific” claims process that has been receiving high praise since it was announced by Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice and Assembly of First Nations Grand Chief Phil Fontaine to speed up some long-delayed land claims negotiations.

“However, we must be clear that there is a big difference between the Dehcho Process here in the north and the ‘Specific’ claims process announced late yesterday. It will have no impact on the speed or direction that the DFN-Canada negotiations take,” Norwegian said.

The Dehcho Process and other Comprehensive Claims are negotiated with Aboriginal governments, provinces or territories and Canada to resolve claims to Aboriginal title that have not been addressed either by Treaty or other legal means. Negotiations will set out land, resources and governance in the DFN through a modern treaty in their traditional territory. Some Comprehensive Claims such as the Nisga’a Nation in British Columbia, Nunavut, Yukon and in the Northwest Territories have been concluded. DFN negotiations continue and the timing will not be affected by the government’s recent announcement.

Specific claims, said to number about 890, are to resolve Canada’s legal obligations to First Nations under existing Treaties, such as unfulfilled promises for reserve lands. These Specific claims have tried to address past grievances about land, resources and other assets. The Specific claims process was first set up in 1947 with little success and has caused great frustration by First Nations.

“While all claims are slow and cause huge frustration these Specific claims have dragged on for decades, sometimes leading to violence and blockades. We stand in solidarity with First Nations people who take action to protect their lands,” Norwegian said, but added that, “I would like to wait and see if this new legislation forming a tribunal to settle Specific claims will work. Some chiefs have already expressed doubt, although the Assembly of First Nations says the plan will be a quantum leap forward.” Fontaine is expected to be the keynote speaker at the DFN annual Assembly in Fort Simpson Tuesday June 26.

Norwegian said First Nations have heard many promises before, including the Dehcho. from Canada’s Department of Indian Affairs so “we’ll wait and see. I don’t expect it to change anything in the talks that are going on here over our land and self-government.”

For further information please contact Herb Norwegiani